President Saakashvili said on September 16 while speaking at a news briefing in the Kazakh capital, Astana, that restoration of the railway link between Russia and breakaway Abkhazia was inadmissible, while Russian President Putin said that the reopening of the rail link was agreed with the Georgian side.
The both Presidents were speaking at a joint news briefing of the leaders of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) held in Astana on September 16.
Vladimir Putin said, the resumption of the Sokhumi-Moscow railway link was agreed during the talks in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi on March 6-7, 2003 between him and Georgia’s ex-President Eduard Shevardnadze.
“We agreed over simultaneous return of IDPs to Abkhazia and resumption of the railway link. The return of internally displaced persons is underway. Over 50-60 thousand refugees have already returned to the Gali district [breakaway Abkhazia],” President Putin said.
However, the Georgian President said that those Georgian displaced persons who have already returned to the Gali district of Abkhazia “have no normal conditions to live” as well as no security guarantees. “Actually, they live there as slaves,” he added.
“We are ready to discuss all current issues. Russia can and should play a positive role in settlement of post-Soviet conflicts. It is in Russia’s interests as well,” Mikheil Saakashvili said.
Later on September 16 the Russian and Georgian Presidents are expected to hold bilateral talks in Astana to discuss recent escalation of tensions between the two countries.